He is Alive!

Chapter 33

In the closing events of the crucifixion day, fresh evidence was given of the fulfillment of prophecy, and a new witness testified to Christ's divinity. When the darkness had lifted from the cross and the Saviour's dying cry had been uttered, immediately another voice was heard, saying, "Truly this was the Son of God."

These words, spoken so all could hear, were voiced by a Roman centurion. Christ's patience under provocation and His ringing cry of victory at His sudden death had impressed this heathen. In the bruised, broken body hanging upon the cross, the centurion recognized the form of the Son of God; and he could not refrain from confessing his faith. This was another evidence that throughout all eternity our Redeemer will be able to look with satisfaction on the result of His great struggle. Upon the very day of His death, men differing widely from one another had declared their faith in Him—the officer who commanded the Roman guard and the dying thief.

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were men of wealth and, as members of the Sanhedrin, both were acquainted with Pilate. Though they had never publicly confessed their faith in Jesus, by their influence they were now able to do for Christ what His disciples could not. Going boldly to Pilate, Joseph asked permission to have the body of Jesus. Pilate had heard conflicting reports in regard to the events surrounding the crucifixion. Now, for the first time, he learned that Jesus was dead. Sending for the centurion who had charge at the cross, he learned for a certainty of Christ's death, confirming the testimony of Joseph.

While the disciple John was troubled as to how to arrange for his Master's burial, Joseph returned with Pilate's order for Christ's body; and Nicodemus came bringing a costly mixture of spices for His embalming. The most honored in all Jerusalem could not have been shown more respect in death. The disciples were astonished to see these wealthy rulers as much interested in their Lord's burial as they themselves were. Gently they removed Christ's battered body from the cross and laid it in a new tomb that belonged to Joseph.

The long day of shame and torture was ended, and at last Jesus was at rest. As the last rays of the setting sun ushered in the Sabbath, the Son of God lay quietly resting in Joseph's tomb. His work completed, He rested through the sacred hours of the Sabbath day.

The revenge that the priests hoped to gain did not turn out to be sweet as they had expected. Already they were feeling fear and apprehension. Quickly they held a council regarding the body of Christ; and going to Pilate, they presented a request. "Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while He was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night, and steal Him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first."

A great stone was placed before the opening of the grave. Across this they placed cords, fastening them firmly to the solid rock and sealing them with the Roman seal. The stone could not be moved without breaking the seal. A guard of one hundred soldiers was then stationed around the grave site to prevent it from being tampered with. The priests did all they could to keep Christ's body securely in the grave. So weak men counseled and planned, little realizing that by their efforts God was to be glorified. These very efforts would present the most convincing evidence as proof of the resurrection. The greater the number of soldiers placed around the tomb, the stronger would be the testimony that Christ had risen. Roman guards were powerless to hold the Lord of life within the tomb. The time of His release was rapidly approaching.

"And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men."

At sight of the angels and the glorified Saviour, the Roman guard fell as dead men. When the heavenly glory had faded from view, they arose to their feet; and as quickly as their trembling legs could carry them, made their way toward the city. Staggering like drunken men, they hurried on, telling those whom they met the wonderful news. Before they reached Pilate's residence, the chief priests and rulers, already hearing the report, sent for the guard. Trembling with fear, their faces colorless, the soldiers presented a strange sight as they told of the resurrection of Christ. They had not had time to think or speak anything but the truth; and they told the whole story, just as they had seen it. Excitedly, they said, "It was the Son of God Who was crucified."

The faces of the priests were as those of dead men. Unable to speak, they could not utter a sound. Just as the soldiers were leaving the council chamber, Caiaphas at last found his voice. "Wait, wait," he said. "Do not tell anyone the things you have seen."

The soldiers were given a lying report. "Say ye," said the priests, that "His disciples came by night, and stole Him away while we slept." Here the priests overreached themselves. How could the soldiers say that the disciples had stolen the body while they slept? If they were asleep, how could they know? And if the disciples could be proven guilty of stealing Christ's body, the priests would certainly have been first to want them prosecuted. On the other hand, if the guards had fallen asleep at their post of duty, would not the priests have been foremost in accusing them to Pilate?

The soldiers were horrified at the thought of bringing upon themselves the charge of sleeping at their post. This was an offense punishable with death. Should they lie, deceiving the people, and thereby place their own lives in jeopardy? How could they stand the trial, even for the sake of money, if they perjured themselves?

In order to silence their testimony, the priests promised to secure the safety of the guard, pointing out to them that Pilate would not desire to have such a report circulated any more than they did. The Roman soldiers sold their honor to the Jews for money. They came in before the priests carrying a most startling message of truth; they went out with a burden of money, and on their tongues a lying report given them by the priests.

Meanwhile, the report of Christ's resurrection had been carried to Pilate. Though Pilate was responsible for having given Christ up to die, it had not been a matter that caused him more than passing concern. While he had condemned Christ unwillingly, he had felt no real misgiving until now. In terror, he now shut himself within his house, determined to see no one. Calling the guard, he privately questioned them. Fearing for their lives, they dared not hide anything; and Pilate learned from them an account of all that had taken place. He did not press the matter further, but from that time there was no peace for him.

When Satan saw Christ come forth from the grave in triumph, he knew that his kingdom would have an end and that he must finally die.

The priests, in putting Christ to death, had made themselves the tools of Satan. Now they were entirely in his power. They were caught in a trap from which they could see no escape except to continue on the course they had begun. When they heard the report of Christ's resurrection, they feared the anger of the people, believing that their own lives were in danger. Their only hope lay in proving Christ an impostor by denying that He had risen. They bribed the soldiers and secured Pilate's silence. They spread their lying reports far and near. But there were witnesses who could not be silenced. Many had heard of the soldiers' original testimony regarding the resurrection.

The priests and rulers lived in continual fear, whether in walking the streets or within the privacy of their own homes, that they should be confronted by the living Christ. Never would the memory of that judgment-hall scene, when they had cried, "His blood be on us, and on our children," fade from their minds. Never again would they experience the rest of a peaceful night's sleep.

Over the open grave, Christ had proclaimed in triumph, "I am the resurrection and the life." These words could be spoken only by the Deity. All created beings live by the will and power of God. Only He who is one with God could say, "I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again."

Christ arose from the dead as the first-fruits of those who slept. He was the fulfillment of that which was represented by the wave-sheaf, and His resurrection took place on the very day when the wave-sheaf was to be presented before the Lord. For more than a thousand years, this symbolic ceremony had been performed. From the harvest fields, the first heads of ripened grain were gathered; and when the people went up to Jerusalem to the Passover, the sheaf of first-fruits was waved as a thank offering before the Lord. Not until this was presented could the general harvest begin. The sheaf dedicated to God represented the harvest. So Christ, the first-fruits, represented the great spiritual harvest to be gathered for the kingdom of God. His resurrection is the type and pledge of the resurrection of all the righteous dead. "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." 1 Thessalonians 4:14

After His resurrection, Jesus remained on earth for a time, that His disciples might become familiar with Him in His risen and glorified body. He had confirmed the fact that He was a living Saviour. His disciples need no longer associate Him with the grave. They could now think of Him as glorified before the heavenly universe.

The time at last came for Him to leave them. Leading the way, Jesus brought His disciples to the summit of the Mount of Olives. Continuing on to the area of Bethany, He paused, and the disciples gathered about Him. Looking lovingly upon them, with His hands outstretched in blessing, as if in assurance of His protecting care, He slowly rose from among them. As He passed upward, the wondering disciples looked with straining eyes for the last sight of their ascending Lord. From the cloud of glory which hid Him from their sight, the words came drifting back to them, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."

This chapter is based on Matthew 27–28